So, continuing along with Mark this week. We were asked to prepare two paragraphs of synthesis relating to our exegesis of Mark’s Gospel.
Mark’s Gospel is focused on proclaiming God’s Kingdom on earth, in opposition to the other kingdoms. I believe that the telling structure of Mark, with the multiple ‘immediatelys’ is itself an important interpretative clue as how to read Mark. While the trend lately has been to read these Gospels as drama, the drama is not in the text itself but in the change which it invokes in the listeners. Christ and His disciples are seen dashing about in a hurry, which is hardly what we have come to expect with the tradition of a ministry of three and a half years, always on the move. While the narrative does heighten the effect on the listener, Christ repeatedly stops the action to explain and to teach His disciples (also the listener) and to rescue his future crucifixion from the trash heap of history. The early Church was dealing with a Crucified Messiah, with no earthly kingdom in sight, while the Roman Emperor was claiming to be the Jewish Messiah, winning battle after battle. Mark’s Gospel was answering the why of the crucifixion of the Messiah by explaining Jesus’ mission while showing who Christ really was.
According to several sources Vespasian was claiming to be the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews which would have been getting too close to the heart of the early Christian movement. Several of Mark’s wonders of Jesus have been shown, although not succinctly, to mimic Vespasian’s. I believe that while Winn has shown that Mark pictures Christ as mimicking Vespasian, he never moved beyond that to show Christ as overcoming Vespasian. Can we subscribe to a Markan use of μίμησις? We should, especially if we take Josephus into our account which is found throughout his account of the Jewish Wars. Mark is not simply, or rather always, employing διήγησις (Suffering Servant and the Discipleship passages), but turns μίμησις on its head (Wonder Worker passages), reflecting what a more Aristotelian concept wherein the passage in question perfects what the reality was. Christ is perfecting, going above and beyond just mimicking Vespasian, the nature created by Vespasian. The central idea, then, of Mark 5.1-17 is the Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God, who is undoing Vespasian’s actions. Of course, alternatively, it may be that Josephus is more familiar with the story of Jesus than previously thought and is in fact doing his own version of μίμησις of Vespasian and the Gospel of Mark. This may be possible although not probable given that some scholarly thought exists that Mark’s Gospel may have an extremely early date.
Cassius Dio, Roman History, 65=66.1.4, 65=66.8.1; Flavius Josephus, Jewish War 3.399-404 and 6.310-315; Suetonius, Life of Vespasian 4.5; Tacitus, Annals, 15.47; Tacitus, Histories, 5.13; Zonaras, Epitome 11.16